The Second Vatican Council stated that one of the more serious errors of our age is the “split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives.” The council fathers saw this division as so serious that our eternal salvation is at stake: “Let there be no false opposition between professional and social activities on the one hand, and religious life on the other. The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation” (Gaudium et Spes, 43).
The document explains that something peculiar to our age has made this division worse. What is it about this age that fosters rather than resists this split? An immediate response can be seen in the language and categories we use to describe our lives. We live in an age where our categories are no longer distinctions but separations, or walls, between public/private, body/soul, church/state, spirituality/ religion, faith/work.
Alasdair MacIntyre describes this particular modern division as “compartmentalization,” where society divides work, family, faith, politics, etc., into distinct spheres, each with its own specific standards of success and failure. “So what is accounted effectiveness in the roles of the home is not at all the same as what is so accounted in the roles of the workplace.” What he makes clear is that our culture not only fails to challenge this compartmentalization but that it works particularly hard at avoiding its confrontation.
To address this problem, the Faith and Work Breakfast Series is devoting a year to the topic of “A Divided Life.” The Faith and Work series is a joint effort of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought of the Center for Catholic Studies and St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis. Now in its 16th year, this well-established series has provided local, national and international speakers to help working people in downtown Minneapolis reflect on the connection between faith and work.
In the opening talk of the series, “Divided Life?: A Bigger Challenge Than We May Know,” Dr. Michael Naughton of the Ryan Institute tackled the question of balance: Is it possible, or is it merely a myth? His reply emphasized that the remedy to the divided life is not “balance” but integration through a certain “logic of gift,” an acceptance of life as a gift. While we are a fallen people and have to deal with the fracturing nature of sin, by living out what he terms the “primacy of the receptive,” integration becomes possible. To hear Dr. Naughton’s talk go to http://stream.stthomas.edu/view.htm?id=Naughton.
In October, Deacon Thomas Winninger of Winninger Resource Companies spoke on vocation in his talk “One Call Multiple Vocations, or Multiple Calls One Vocation? The Spiritual Secret to Convergence in Life and Work!” He specifically addressed how to avoid pitting priorities one against another and to bring a deep sense of purpose to each. Kathleen Norris, author and Benedictine oblate, speaks on acedia, an ancient term for listlessness and inability to care, on Dec. 9, in “Seeking Fidelity in Everyday Life: Acedia and Beyond.”
To learn about upcoming speakers, visit www.stthomas.edu/cathstudies/CST/leaderdevel/faithandwork
Read more from Perspectives